Customer retention can be as easy as A, B, C. There are 3 basic principles that form the foundation for a customer retention program which effectively builds and maintains profitable, life long customer relationships.
Acquisition Is The Beginning of Customer Retention
Any customer worth acquiring in the first place is worth retaining as a life long customer. That’s why an effective customer retention process begins the instant a prospect makes the commitment to become your customer. If you begin retention programs only when you’re in danger of losing a customer, it’s usually too late.
Develop A Passion For Retention
Customer retention needs to be an aggressive and proactive activity that is completely integrated into your business plans and operations right from the start. The first and major step is to adopt customer retention as a company mindset.
Retention needs to become every employee’s passion. “We value, respect and keep our customers” should be the mantra of every employee throughout the organization, not only in customer service.
Creating an internal communications campaign that builds “buy in” and arouses passion for customer retention is a simple, inexpensive way to produce major measurable results.
Start by holding a company-wide contest to come up with a retention campaign slogan … or come up with one yourself. Here are some suggested slogans” “We Keep Customers… Or Else” …. “Have You Kept A Customer Today” … “Retention Is My Business” … “I’m Passionate About Retention” … or “I Love Retention”. Display the slogan on internal emails and posters hung around the office. Invest a few dollars on buttons, T Shirts or hats featuring the slogan too. Whatever you can afford to spend will be a profitable investment.
Recognize and Reward Retention
Recognizing and rewarding employees who take that extra step to retain a customer is another simple and inexpensive way to create a retention mindset and passion. All it takes is a simple internal memo recognizing the employee and awarding them a gift card or some other token of the company’s appreciation.
Hire and Train To Retain
Begin by hiring staff in all departments and at all levels who understand the importance of customer service and retention. Make customer retention an important part of new employee orientation as well.
Once you’ve hired retention-focused staff, provide ongoing retention training. Arrange opportunities for employees in all departments to meet and assist customers. Companies with hard-nosed credit managers and slick talking sales people who are clueless when it comes retaining valuable customers, usually have major retention problems.
Make Retention An Everyday Activity
Retaining your current customers should be an objective of all your operations including accounting and finance, credit, customer service, distribution, marketing, parts and service, research and development, sales and technical support. Keep in mind that customer retention is a primary objective of every department … even those that have little or no contact with customers. Accounting and financial staff may not deal directly with customers, but the policies they establish, the support they provide other departments, and the way they conduct their operations have a direct impact on the level of customer satisfaction and on customer retention.
Develop Best Practices For Retention
Customer Retention needs to be integrated into every aspect of your overall business and marketing plans, so it becomes second nature. Formulating “Best Practices For Customer Retention” helps assure consistency in managing the customer product experience and customer communications in organizations with multi-discipline, cross functional teams.
Build Brand Loyalty Into Brand Insistence
Brand loyalty is essential for high customer retention rates. The higher the degree of brand loyalty, the higher the customer retention. Building and maximizing the level of brand loyalty is the second basic principle of customer retention.
There are three levels of brand loyalty: brand awareness – where the customer knows and uses your brand; brand preference – where the customer prefers your brand over others, but will switch to another brand if yours isn’t available or if the price is too high; and brand insistence – where the customer develops a personal relationship with your brand and will accept no substitutes for it under any circumstances.
Life-long, brand insistent customers are created by effective customer experience management. Once brand insistence is attained, customer retention becomes a natural outcome.
Customer Experience Management
Customer Experiences … that’s what it’s all about. People aren’t seeking customer service today … top quality customer service is a minimal expectation.
Customers are seeking a unique, personal and consistently satisfying experience with your brand 100% of the time. A brand’s ability to deliver this caliber of experience consistently is the primary factor in determining customer retention rates. Today it’s all about the customer … not about the company or product … and customers know it!
Building brand-insistent customers is accomplished through effectively managing the customer product experience. This requires engaging the customer at every touch point and consistently delivering an experience that exceeds their expectation and provides complete satisfaction every time. Accomplish this with every customer and retention will no longer be a part of your vocabulary.
Here are the key elements needed to create and manage customer experiences that produce lifelong, profitable customers and 100% retention:
Your brand image and personality must match your customers’ self-image, personality, lifestyle and needs. If your brand and your customer don’t “click”, the chances of a lifelong relationship are virtually nil.
Brand Quality and Value
Customers expect high quality on a consistent basis. Advances in technology, increased sources of supply, international competition and online shopping have greatly increased customers’ expectations for quality. Customers are no longer willing to accept lower quality for a lower price. They want high quality, 100% satisfaction and the lowest price possible. High quality and high real and/or perceived value are essential for maximizing the customer brand experience.
Know and Understand Your Customers
Customers aren’t account numbers or nameless, faceless stereotypes. They’re individuals with unique lifestyles, needs and expectations. Each one expects a unique and personally satisfying experience from your brand. You can’t deliver the experience they expect if you don’t get to know and understand them.
It’s not enough to meet customer expectations. Promise what you can deliver … but always deliver more. Customer expectations have to be consistently exceeded to maximize their brand experience and convert them into profitable lifelong customers.
Consistently delivering a totally satisfying customer experience at every touch point is the key to success. Accomplishing this some of the time … or most of the time isn’t enough. Batting .300 may be great in professional baseball, but it won’t make you a winner in the retention game.
Honesty and Respect
Just like in a business partnership or a marriage, honesty and respect are building blocks for a long and satisfying relationship.
Customers demand honesty. If you make a mistake with a customer, own up to it, fix it fast and never let it happen again. Always tell the truth. If you lie to a customer, sooner or later they’ll find out themselves or through some someone else. Once they do, they’ll never give you the chance to lie again.
Customers are becoming more savvy and sophisticated consumers every day. Respect their intelligence, especially in your advertising and promotion. No customer wants a relationship with a company that doesn’t respect them.
Advertisers and marketers have always been concerned with reaching customers. Now the emphasis has shifted to “engaging” customers through satisfying brand experiences. Engagement leads to a relationship and emotional involvement with the brand which in turn maximizes the satisfaction level of their experience. This in turn creates a brand insistent, lifelong customer who will never be a retention problem.
Engage and Deliver At All Touch Points
There are hundreds of potential touch points that create the opportunity for engagement and satisfactory customer brand experiences. These include advertising, brochures and collateral material, community events, trade shows, publicity, emails, websites, sales people, customer service reps, technical support staff, word of mouth “buzz”‘ and other customers’ opinions. Recognize all the touch points and double check to make sure your exceeding customer expectations of your brand at each point.
Listen and Respond
Listen to what your customers have to say and quickly respond to their feedback. Be proactive and seek their feedback through VOC (Voice of Customer) or EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) programs. The most effective techniques are real-time online or outbound telephone surveys conducted immediately after a customer touch point experience.
As part of their brand experience, customers want to be heard and expect that two-way communication between them and the company. Solicit customer feedback, analyze it, act on it and respond to it as soon as possible. This enhances the relationship, builds trust and creates brand insistent lifelong customers who will never need retention.
Thank Customers Often
Appreciation is an integral part of the satisfaction resulting from the brand experience. When customers don’t feel appreciated, they’ll turn to another company who will appreciate them more. It’s critical to thank your customer at every touch point.
Gestures of appreciation can include customer loyalty and preferred customer programs, discount certificates and coupons or just regular phone calls, emails, snail mailings or personal visits to say thanks. A simple thank you goes a long way.
Develop a customer retention mindset that begins at customer acquisition, build brand insistence and create and manage consistently satisfying customer brand experiences. These are all it takes to build sky-high customer retention rates. As you can see effective customer retention really can be as easy as A … B …. C.